Budget 2019: ‘ANC payment rates must reflect constraints’

Budget 2019 has received a mixed reaction from the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association following its announcement yesterday (Tuesday, October 9); although the extra ANC funding was welcomed.

The farmers’ organisation has expressed major concerns regarding some elements of the budget while welcoming others.

National president Colm O’Donnell outlined that the increased budget for the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) Scheme is a clear positive.

“This was a major part of our pre-budget submission where we outlined the need for increased funding of €23 million in order to help protect farmers operating on land with very high constraints,” he said.

The increased budget he continued, which will stand at €250 million, must ensure payment rates reflect the actual land constraint.

“With this in mind we are encouraging the continued targeting of payments along the same lines of the 2018 increase. This saw farmers receive up to €600 in additional payments.”

On the proposed €20 million beef pilot scheme, O’Donnell stated that anything that puts money into the sector is clearly a positive.

However, the scheme does seem complicated and if it is designed to help address climate change then a scheme that targets extensive grazing can deliver better outcomes, he said.

“With this in mind we would ask the minister to look again at our proposals on a sustainable suckler cow scheme with a payment model based on the old sheep grassland model and paying up to €4,000 per farmer.”

Of major concern to the organisation is the proposal to increase the spending on forestry by over €100 million.

“The INHFA has and will continue to express concerns around the current forestry proposals that continue to promote non-native conifers and sitka spruce as the way forward.

In recognising the right tree can provide a major benefit, especially in terms of carbon sequestration, we believe that this additional funding should be targeted towards providing a life-time payment for native broad-leaf trees in recognition of the public good that these trees provide.

Concluding, O’Donnell said the organisation will do a full assessment on the implications for INHFA members on Budget 2019 in the next two days and will issue a more detailed response on those budget changes then.